Hermeneutics and the Conservatism of Listening


  • David Liakos Houston Community College


Conservatism, Gadamer, Hermeneutics, Listening, Perception, Vision


It is well known that philosophical hermeneutics has long been associated in political discussions with a conservative orientation. Many Gadamerians have sought to rebut this suggestion, convincingly emphasizing progressive political dimensions of hermeneutics in general and of Gadamer's thought in particular. One version of the association of hermeneutics with conservatism has been overlooked, however, namely, Hans Blumenberg's provocative claim that the predilection in the hermeneutic tradition for metaphors of hearing and listening indicates that hermeneutics passively heeds and takes in tradition as we would unwillingly receive a loud sound, and is thereby politically conservative. This paper critically responds to Blumenberg's critique of what I call the conservatism of listening, and aims to interrogate the extent to which Gadamer's hermeneutics can be characterized by this form of conservatism. Through a consideration of ocular metaphors in Gadamer's thinking, we will discover in Gadamerian hermeneutics a conception of dynamic, constructive, and embodied engagement with historical traditions that makes room for critique. In this way, Gadamer avoids the charge of adhering to the conservatism of listening.

Author Biography

David Liakos, Houston Community College

Instructor of Philosophy




How to Cite

Liakos, D. (2020). Hermeneutics and the Conservatism of Listening. Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, 16(2), 495–519. Retrieved from https://cosmosandhistory.org/index.php/journal/article/view/796